MORE DEMOLITIONS TO COME: Govt to begin moving on illegally built structures on New Providence

MORE DEMOLITIONS TO COME: Govt to begin moving on illegally built structures on New Providence
A tractor tears into a structure in a shantytown on Abaco in May 2021. (PHOTO: THE MINISTRY OF PUBLIC WORKS)

“It’s absolutely critical that we get this under control”

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The government has started issuing notices of demolition to residents of illegal shantytown structures “popping up” on New Providence, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister yesterday.

As he spoke to ongoing concerns of “shantytown houses” being built on private properties in the capital, Bannister urged Bahamians to report illegal structures being built to the ministry.

He said he received photographs over the weekend of illegal structures being built in his constituency, Carmichael, and in the Tall Pines area, adding that the requisite notices will be issued and those structures will be taken down.

Desmond Bannister.

“They are very close to legally built homes of Bahamians,” Bannister noted.

“They are going to cause challenges in those communities.”

“…It’s important, in those circumstance, for those of us who care about our way of life, who care about our community — where we are going to grow up our children, where our families live — that we report these irregularities where we see them, so that the government authorities can act properly.

“They’ve been going on for many years and I keep saying that unless we do something, we already have challenges with our water table, we are going to have more challenges with our water table, sanitation issues.

“We are going to have challenges with our health issues, and it’s most important for all of us to be able to safeguard our health.”

The public works minister advised that the illegal buildings in Carmichael were expected to receive notices yesterday.

“We will continue give notices and when the notice has expired, we will do what we have to do to demolish them,” he said.

In 2018, the government formed a shantytown action task force to eradicate all illegal communities in the country.

The preliminary New Providence Shantytown Assessment Report, 2018, identified 428 shantytown households, the majority of which were in the Carmichael and Golden Isles constituencies.

Shantytown residents in the capital were initially given until August 10, 2018 and residents in Abaco shanties were given until July 31, 2019 to clear those communities.

However, days before demolition was to begin, attorneys representing 177 of those residents from both Abaco and New Providence were granted leave for a judicial review of the government’s actions regarding the communities and an injunction preventing the demolition.

A final demolition notice attached to a structure in an Abaco shantytown last month.

Bannister said the government will continue to comply with that order, as the court matter continues to lag.

He said: “But where persons have continued to build, just hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of these houses, it’s absolutely critical that we get this under control.

“The only way we are really going to get it under control is if Bahamians report what they see.”

However, he could not indicate exactly how many new buildings have been constructed illegally on New Providence since that 2018 survey.

Hurricane Dorian destroyed the two largest of the six shantytowns on Abaco — The Mudd and Pigeon Peas — in September 2019.

Following the storm, the government issued an order with immediate effect preventing anyone from building or developing in The Mudd, Pigeon Peas, Sandbanks and The Farm and cleared down the debris from those storm-ridden areas.

The government recently move ahead this with the third phase of an operation to demolish shantytown structures on Abaco.

At least 10 illegal housing structures in the Farm shantytown have been demolish already, with more 200 illegal structures left to tackle, according to officials.

About Sloan Smith

Sloan Smith is a senior digital reporter at Eyewitness News, covering a diverse range of beats, from politics and crime to environment and human interest. In 2018, Sloan received a nomination for the “Leslie Higgs Feature Writer of The Year Award” from The Bahamas Press Club for her work with Eyewitness News.


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